Snow in Istanbul, with a touch of frozen facts

Snow in Istanbul, with a touch of frozen facts

Belgin Akaltan -
Snow in Istanbul, with a touch of frozen facts Sounds very romantic, doesn’t it? Yeah, you bet. Because my face and hands were about to freeze last night I didn’t dare go out today and am working from home in my pajamas. I have limited eating options though with only tarhana and erişte (look them up! You can’t expect everything to be served to you) in my cupboards with a few tomatoes and lots of herbal tea. The inventory continues with one chicken leg, frozen peas, dried apricots and dried plums. If you are reading this piece it means I’ve survived. (This is earlier in the week - what did you think? That I write this on the weekend?)

My poor bakkal, the local shop keeper, becomes a hero on snowy days. He excels in his job. He delivers the paper, bread, a water bottle, whatever you’ve ordered he brings right to your door. I attribute this to his rural origins. He is able to endure adverse weather conditions while we city slickers slip and fall with the first snow patch we step on… (Yes, I’m an elitist and discriminatory… And cultist. Just sit back and enjoy it…Smile… Phew… How hard is it to make Turks smile?)

I wrote to my friend in Canada to say that we have some 10 centimeters of snow in Istanbul and that life has come to a halt. She is still laughing. She sent me a picture of her driveway and the amount of snow she had to shovel.

I know people in Erzurum and other eastern provinces where snow stays for six months are also laughing at us when we become paralyzed with the first flake of snow, but snow in Istanbul is no laughing matter. It is rather tragic.

Here, listen carefully. This is a true story: A former Istanbul Governor, let’s say M.G., who is a Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy in Parliament now, was appointed to Istanbul from Samsun in 2003 for no apparent reason.

As soon as he took office he promised that “from now on, schools will not be closed with just two drops of snow.” He tried to scare the cold front coming from the Balkans with these words.

Later, he was the architect of a historic snow catastrophe in Istanbul on Jan. 22, 2004. Even though experts and the media had seriously warned him, just for the sake of standing behind his words, our governor, who thought Istanbul was a tiny village, refused to close the schools until the last moment.

Then at around 9 a.m. all hell broke lose in Istanbul. The metropolis was paralyzed. All roads were blocked, several accidents happened, people started walking to their destinations as a last resort, power was cut off, commuters were desperate. (Yes, the same familiar scenes but multiplied a few times in this specific event.) Only such an incompetent governor would have made his citizens suffer so much in the 21st century. An elementary school child was killed. She was found frozen to death the day after the heavy snowfall, lying in a dry river bank somewhere around Ümraniye. She had gotten lost when she tried to take a short cut, leaving her older sister behind. Teams and neighborhood volunteers searched for her all night.

Then the governor learned his lesson. After this tragic incident, whenever the weather forecast predicts anything close to snow, like sleet, rain mixed with snow, or a few snow drops, say in Bulgaria, this governor would close the schools for a week. Even if the weather was mild and sunny, he would close the schools. He was so carried away with closing schools that year that an extra month at the beginning of summer had to be added to the academic year to make up for the lost time in winter. It is rumored that this former governor and now new AKP deputy cannot pronounce the word “kar” to this day. (All right, “kar” means snow.)

Jennifer Lopez has bought an apartment in Istanbul. Yes J-Lo, please come on a snowy day and we will all watch together how quickly you will catch the next flight back… If your plane can even take off.

For those who remain here: listen, we are all weird in one way or another… If you have read my column up until this spot, you are definitely weird and you are the right texture for Istanbul… For those who read this from abroad and who have plans to come here; come, come, all we need is more weirdos!

P.S. Sorry, I was going to write about the snow experience in Istanbul, but I’ve run out of space. Wait until the next snow.

P.P.S. Paragraphs about the governor have largely been inspired by an ekşi sözlük entry by “san anel an” on 15.06.2011 on 8:40 p.m. under the topic Muammer Güler.